FCC Touts New Ruling That Could Hinder State Net Neutrality Laws

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai is touting a new appellate ruling that could potentially give a boost to companies looking to invalidate state net neutrality rules.

The decision, issued Friday by a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, dismissed a complaint brought by regulators in Minnesota against Charter over its voice-over-Internet-protocol service.

The appellate judges ruled 2-1 that Minnesota regulators couldn't proceed against Charter, because a federal policy of deregulation prevented state officials from enforcing their own state-specific rules.

Pai praised the decision, which he said aligned with the FCC's approach. "A patchwork quilt of 50 state laws harms investment and innovation in advanced communications services," he stated.

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He called the ruling "wholly consistent" with the FCC's recent decision to repeal the Obama-era open internet rules and block states from imposing their own net neutrality regulations.

The FCC's decision to revoke the rules, as well as its decision to prevent states from issuing their own laws, is being challenged in court by a broad coalition of tech companies, net neutrality proponents, and attorneys general.

Lawmakers and other officials in several states have also attempted to restore net neutrality by passing their own laws. It's not yet known whether those efforts will hold up in court.

Most recently, California lawmakers voted last month in favor of a law prohibiting broadband providers from blocking or throttling traffic, charging higher fees for fast-lane service, and from exempting their own video streams from consumers' data caps. Governor Jerry Brown hasn't yet signed that law.

Earlier this year, the governors of Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Montana, Hawaii and Vermont signed orders requiring state agencies to contract only with providers that follow net neutrality principles. In Oregon, lawmakers passed a bill that prohibits state agencies from contracting with broadband providers that violate net neutrality principles. Washington state passed a more comprehensive law that prohibits broadband providers operating in the state from blocking or throttling traffic and from charging companies higher fees for prioritized delivery.

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